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What an exciting weekend I had! Four days ago. But, you  know. I feel the need to share, since it involved books, and me taking home more books, thus making my new Kindle feel small and jealous. I stopped by Printers Row on Sunday, saw a concert, and ate birthday cake! With pink glitter toothpaste frosting. This is what my father exclaimed with dismay when he saw it. “Why is the frosting glitter toothpaste?!”

No, really. It *sparkles*

Cake was on Saturday. The original plan was to spend the entire weekend in Chicago with my little sister – I bought her ticket to the concert as an early birthday gift, and I basically treated myself to a weekend of awesome for my own birthday – but it was so freakin’ hot and gross that I just knew we wouldn’t have the energy to be outside wandering around both days. So Saturday we stayed home, and spent the afternoon trying to hunt down a picnic basket.

Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you! We were going to see Iron & Wine Sunday at the Ravinia, this really neat outdoor venue north of Chicago in Highland Park. I’d never been, and I was kind of excited about our lawn seats; on the lawn, they let you bring in your own food, blankets, chairs, coolers, whatever. So we wanted to make it a legit picnic and have an actual, honest to God picnic basket to put our goodies in.

Think we could find one on short notice? Yeah. Yeah, no. I mean, if I was feeling particularly adventurous and wanted to search all of Plainfield and Joliet for a picnic basket, I might have found one, but we stuck kind of close to home, since it was two hundred degrees outside with no wind and my car doesn’t have working A/C. I feel like I should get that fixed. We found something comparable at a crafty type store, but the real kick in the pants was at Target. No picnic baskets to be found, except…

Target, you asshole.

Oh that’s nice. Taunt me with a picture of a picnic basket, but don’t carry one I can actually buy. I see how it is.

So Sunday we woke up bright and early and headed north. I try to avoid driving into Chicago since it still gives me anxiety, so we went to Rosemont, which is halfway to Highland Park anyways, and took the CTA train into the city. I didn’t think it was miserably hot since there was a nice breeze, but my sister was already a sack of complaints before we even ate lunch. I kind of expected that, since Sam is fifteen and she has mastered whining down to a fine art. I can tell when she’s honestly unhappy or just whining because she can. So I ignored her pithy comments about walking, the sun, the heat, how much she hates me. I dragged her into Myopic Books, a bookstore in the Wicker Park neighborhood with floors so creaky you’re almost convinced you’ll go crashing down to the next level after a few jumping jacks. The aisles are super narrow, the basement is kind of creepy, but I can’t visit that area without going in, because I never leave there empty-handed.

We hopped back on the L for downtown, did a little shopping, and walked over to the Printers Row Lit Fest. I know all kinds of cool things had been going on all weekend, and I missed like all of it, so I promised myself to be more prepared and spend more time there next year. For those unfamiliar with Printers Row, it’s basically a literary fest put on by the Printers Row membership society, who do weekly journals about all things bookish via the Chicago Tribune. It blocks off a handful of city blocks in the Printers Row neighborhood of downtown Chicago, and tents and booths are set up for local bookstores, indie publishers, literacy organizations, the like. There are stages set up for children’s story time, author readings and signings, all kinds of fun stuff. And it’s totally free – there are some events that require tickets and such, but there’s no admission fee to the fest itself. I’ve never been to anything like it.

Only in the past seven months or so have I begun to really explore the literary world, since I started to work within it. I feel like I’m still dipping my toes in the water, trying to get acclimated, afraid to plunge right in because there’s just so much. I’m only just starting to realize the huge literary community in the Chicago area and suburbs, and I feel like this whole new world is opening up. Just looking over the lists of authors, publishers, and organizations at the fest was overwhelming. A handful were familiar, but beyond that, I didn’t know any of them. Bookstores I didn’t know existed, a plethora of small presses, tons of authors. I am totally going to spend a few weeks just tracking down all those bookstores and visiting them. I can’t wait to grow more familiar with the literary community around me, but until then, I just decided to enjoy the book celebration, wander around, and buy books.

I didn’t stay as long as I wanted, on account of an overheated and irritated teenager and our schedule, since we had the concert. I discovered the discounted book tents, and happily dug through the bins and scanned the shelves for cheap reads, much to my sisters’ horror. She is well aware of my habit of spending hours perusing books, so she attempted to cut my browsing short:

“It’s really hot out here. Like really hot. And bright. How many books do you need? How long is this going to take? Because I feel like I’m dying. Melissa. I’m dying. I’m really thirsty, too. I need some water. Missy. Missy. I am dying out here. Can we go inside somewhere? Are you done? Oh my God, you’re going to make me carry some of those books in my bag? Are you kidding me? Why are you doing this to me?! I hate you.”

And so on. She’s actually a funny kid, so it was less annoying and more amusing. Don’t worry, I let her enjoy some air conditioning and get water. I ended up with seven books.

It was a good day.

I brought Let’s Pretend This Never Happened with me to the concert, since I’ve been dying to read Jenny Lawson’s memoir, and there was enough daylight to enjoy it through the opening act. Seriously, the perfect way to end a Sunday is to chill on a blanket with a pillow, at a concert venue, listening to music, eating, and enjoying a hilarious read. I highly recommend it. I was giggling to myself from the very start of the book, and after a few pages my sister gave me a scathing look and said, “I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself over there. Without me.” So we had story time, and I read the first thirteen pages out loud. We laughed so hard that I think we made the couple lounging in their chairs nearby nervous.

So that ended my adventurous weekend. I concluded I must find a way to live in Highland Park, because it’s absolutely gorgeous. And next year, I will strive to double the amount of books I walk away with from Printers Row. Also, Iron & Wine was stupendous.

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